There’s an old saying that I always return to: “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”
When a stray bullet penetrated a window at Frances S. Tucker Elementary School and narrowly missed hitting a student in February 2016, my father, County Commissioner Xavier Suarez, decided to lead. He coordinated with Miami-Dade Public Schools in creating the Envelopes of Safety Initiative, an after school program that provides a safe, creative space for the students at the elementary school.
A year later, an astounding 87 percent of the kids who participated in the program demonstrated growth in their reading proficiency. These gains are no accident; our kids need safe after school programming to flourish.Seeing the program’s success, I decided to follow Commissioner Suarez’s lead. Using some of my district’s share of the city’s Anti-Poverty money, I am funding an expansion of Envelopes of Safety to 16 public schools across Miami next school term.
This initiative would be impossible without cooperation between governmental entities and local stakeholders. All nine Miami-Dade School Board members co-sponsored the resolution that allowed its creation.
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At a recent city commission meeting, Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and School Board Member Maria Teresa Rojas spoke on behalf of the program. I received unanimous support from my colleagues on the commission. Nonprofit groups and school leaders also have helped.
The reality is that None of us can fix the problems in our community alone. It would be easy to shift the responsibility for education completely onto the School Board, or for public safety completely onto the Police Department, but that mentality ignores how interconnected these challenges are. We have two choices: We can work together on these problems as leaders , or we can all step aside “get out of the way” when things go wrong and point fingers when they don’t get fixed.
Envelopes of Safety helps kids get a good education and keeps them safe after school, which ultimately makes the city of Miami stronger. Instead of getting out of the way, our leaders decided to lead.